At This Din­ner, A Dol­lop Of Vit­riol

The Washington Post Sunday - - Style - By Amy Ar­getsinger and Rox­anne Roberts

Global warm­ing was the talk­ing point last night at the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion din­ner when singer Sh­eryl Crow and “In­con­ve­nient Truth” pro­ducer Lau­rie David walked over to Ta­ble 92 at the Hil­ton Wash­ing­ton to chat with Karl Rove — and the re­sult­ing ex­change was suit­ably heated.

“I am floored by what I just ex­pe­ri­enced with Karl Rove,” David re­ports. “I went over to him and said, ‘I urge you to take a new look at global warm­ing.’ He went zero to 100 with me. . . . I’ve never had any­one be so rude.”

Rove’s ver­sion: “She came over to in­sult me and she suc­ceeded.”

Things got so hot that Crow stepped in to defuse the sit­u­a­tion and then got into it with Rove her­self. “You work for me,” she told the pres­i­den­tial ad­viser, ac­cord­ing to

singed by­standers. “No,” was his re­sponse. “I work for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

News of the dust-up fil­tered quickly through the room. Some wit­nesses said David was very ag­gres­sive with Rove; a shaken Crow later said that Rove was “com­bat­ive and un­re­spon­sive.”

San­jaya Malakar, the shy, slen­der, 17year-old “Amer­i­can Idol” re­ject, was at his ta­ble when a tall, mid­dle-aged man stopped by to ask for an au­to­graph. The boy’s hosts, from Peo­ple mag­a­zine, tried to shoo him away.

“We are try­ing to let him eat,” they ex­plained.

The man protested: “But I’m the gov­er­nor of New York.”

And so Eliot Spitzer got his au­to­graph. It was that kind of night. It al­ways is.

Larry David, the grouchy-comic cre­ator of “Se­in­feld” and “Curb Your En­thu­si­asm,” held court from a prized fron­trow seat just feet away from Pres­i­dent Bush while Al­berto Gon­za­les and Paul Wol­fowitz were rel­e­gated to ta­bles in the Outer Siberia of the ball­room.

The evening took a turn to­ward the somber when the pres­i­dent took the stage. Af­ter a video­taped mes­sage from David Let­ter­man (“Top 10 Ge­orge W. Bush Mo­ments”), he said, “In light of this week’s tragedy at Vir­ginia Tech I’ve de­cided not to be funny.”

And with that he handed the lectern over to Rich Lit­tle. “I’m not here to make any po­lit­i­cal points,” the vet­eran comic said. “I’m a night­club en­ter­tainer who tells a lot of dumb stupid jokes. I’m just here tonight try­ing to make enough money to get my rel­a­tives out of Canada.”

The im­pres­sions (of John McCain, Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, Johnny Car­son, Andy Rooney) and jokes (Vi­a­gra, Smurfs, hem­or­rhoids) were mid­dle-of-the-road, with more than a few end­ing up in the break­down lane. Lit­tle’s riff af­ter one par­tic­u­larly tepid re­sponse: “And you thought Col­bert was bad!”

The din­ner is an event that has ruf­fled plenty of feath­ers in re­cent years, what with the per­ceived aura of co­zi­ness be­tween jour­nal­ists and their sources. Last year’s rou­tine by Stephen Col­bert be­came a na­tional flashpoint for a rou­tine blasted by some for its rude­ness to Bush and cheered by oth­ers as brave truthtelling.

As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Steve Scully urged the crowd to set pol­i­tics aside for one night. “An ad­ver­sary is not the same thing as an en­emy,” he said in his open­ing re­marks, “and an evening of ci­vil­ity does not mean we are sell­ing out.”

Two poignant mo­ments early on qui­eted and united the rau­cous room. Tony Snow made his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since he an­nounced the re­cur­rence of his can­cer, and re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion when he was in­tro­duced. Amy Steele, ed­i­tor of the Vir­ginia Tech stu­dent news­pa­per, took the podium to lead the room in a call-and-re­sponse of “Let’s go Hok­ies!”

Head-turn­ers: K CBS Evening News ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Rick Ka­plan climb­ing on top of chairs to reach Jane Fonda across the crowded ball­room. (“Oh God, am I go­ing to get writ­ten up?”) K Ge­or­gette Mos­bacher wear­ing not hot pants but black leg­gings. K New Or­leans Saints run­ning back Reg­gie Bush sport­ing di­a­mond studs the size of head­lights. Four karats? we asked. No, five. On each ear.

Like wed­dings th­ese days, the din­ner has mor­phed into a three-day af­fair — from Fri­day re­cep­tions for the fa­vored out-of-town­ers, to the ac­tual event Satur­day, fol­lowed by Sun­day hang­over brunches ( John McLaugh­lin hosts the most prom­i­nent).

At Peo­ple mag­a­zine’s Fri­day cock­tail party at In­debleu, jour­nal­ists and staffers si­dled up to “Project Run­way” em­i­nence Tim Gunn and “High School Mu­si­cal” star Zac Efron, the first of Peo­ple’s zeit­geisty guests to land in D.C. ( San­jaya was not ex­pected un­til yes­ter­day; Va­lerie Bertinelli was stuck on jury duty in L.A.) Efron wore Bea­tle bangs and a skinny tie. Adorable. How old is he? “Nine­teen,” Peo­ple’s bureau chief San­dra So­bieraj West­fall said quickly. “That’s a vir­gin mo­jito. I got it for him.”

Across town at the Park Hy­att, a cou­ple hun­dred semi-drunk po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness types vied for a seat at the Creative Coali­tion’s “celebrity in­vi­ta­tional” poker tour­na­ment and a mo­ment or two with Hol­ly­wood eye candy such as ac­tress Kerry Wash­ing­ton (“I Think I Love My Wife”). Tim Daly (“Wings,” “The So­pra­nos”), the last ac­tor elim­i­nated in the four-hour game, di­vulged his mishap at a White House lun­cheon the day be­fore: “My fly broke.” Re­ally? A smit­ten fan in­ter­rupted: “That’s Tim Daly. He’s my fu­ture ex-hus­band.”

Yes­ter­day, the crowds jammed a nar­row street in the Pal­isades for the an­nual power brunch co-hosted by MSNBC pro­ducer Tammy Had­dad and lob­by­ist­turned-en­tre­pre­neur Hi­lary Rosen. “Go meet Tiki Bar­ber — he’s adorable,” Had­dad said, wav­ing to some place un­der the vast tent in her back yard, where 300-plus guests gulped mi­mosas and ten­der­loin: Morgan Fairchild, in gold lamé and heels, chat­ting up Chris Matthews, in a base­ball hat and jeans; No­rah O’Don­nell show­ing off her hugely preg­nant tummy to an­other mom-to-be. “I thought I was be­ing in­vited to a lit­tle back­yard party,” Ann Curry of NBC’s “To­day” show told us. “I had no idea. I have to say I’m over­stim­u­lated and con­fused.”

BY JAMES M. THRESHER — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

G. Gor­don Liddy, Teri Hatcher and her daugh­ter Emer­son, 11, meet the press.

BY JAMES M. THRESHER — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Olympian Apolo Ohno and his “Danc­ing With the Stars” part­ner, Ju­lianne Hough, show off some moves at the celeb-stud­ded event.

BY LAWRENCE JACK­SON — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Bush joins in wel­com­ing his spokesman Tony Snow, who is bat­tling can­cer.

BY JONATHAN ERNST — REUTERS

Niecy Nash of “Reno: 911” bright­ened an evening that was not with­out a few dark mo­ments.

BY JAMES M. THRESHER — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Booted “Amer­i­can Idol” con­tes­tant San­jaya Malakar. At left, Shawn and Larry King.

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